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Title: A Letter to John Wilkes, Esq. - Sheriff of London and Middlesex
Author: Holloway, Robert
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Letter to John Wilkes, Esq. - Sheriff of London and Middlesex" ***

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Transcribed from the 1771 S. Bladon edition by David Price, email
ccx074@pglaf.org

                      [Picture: Public domain cover]



                                    A
                                  LETTER
                                    TO
                            JOHN WILKES, Esq;


                          SHERIFF OF LONDON AND
                                MIDDLESEX;

                                 IN WHICH

  THE EXTORTION AND OPPRESSION
  OF SHERIFFS OFFICERS, WITH MANY
  OTHER ALARMING ABUSES, ARE EX-
  EMPLIFIED AND DETECTED; AND A
  REMEDY PROPOSED:

                    THE INFAMOUS PRACTICE OF ATTORNIES
                           CLEARLY POINTED OUT;

  AND MANY OTHER REAL GRIEVANCES WHICH
  THE COMMON PEOPLE HAVE LONG GROANED
  UNDER WITHOUT RELIEF.

                             ILLUSTRATED WITH

                       CONSIDERATIONS ON THE POLICY
                       AND ADVANTAGE OF ARRESTS IN
                             GENERAL, &c. &c.

                                * * * * *

    _Careless of censure_, _nor too fond of fame_,
    _Still pleas’d to praise_, _yet not afraid to blame_.

                                                                     POPE.

                                * * * * *

                        By ROBERT HOLLOWAY, Gent.
                              Of GRAY’S-INN.

                                * * * * *

                                 LONDON:
               Printed for S. BLADON, in Pater-noster Row.
                               M DCC LXXI.

                                * * * * *



TO THE
PUBLIC.


A DEDICATION seems as necessary to a publication as legitimacy to a
child; but as I have no blown-up fool to flatter, no private end to
answer, no itch to become an author, thirst for praise, nor dread of
censure, I shall therefore commit the annexed sheets to your protection;
in the course of which the reader will find my pen a most faithful
amanuensis to truth.  And if so weak a monitor contributes but a mite to
general utility, the end is fulfilled; if no, the intention is equally
laudable.  I have sowed the seeds of reformation; it is you must manure
the land, and give the increase.  The task is undertook at infinite
peril; an accumulation of enemies enemies is the certain consequence,
whilst a creation of friends amounts not to a glimmering hope.  To raise
a party or private emolument, I have quitted the turnpike-road, and
omitted every thing necessary for the purpose; viz. libelling the most
respectable characters in the nation, and giving scurrility and falshood
a preference to truth.

It may be said with more envy than justice, that the subject matter is
but the consequence of a private quarrel between the author and ONE of
the parties alluded to.  Such squibs of malice, and other obstacles of
the like nature, I am well aware of, and am provided with proper
artillery to combat all such opposition.  It is therefore necessary to
declare, that I took chambers in Gray’s-Inn with a settled purpose of
detecting the numerous and enormous abuses and cruelties contained in the
following treatise.

How I came to fail in the undertaking, my Letter to the Citizens of
London fully explains.

The seizing my furniture, books, papers, and every thing I was possessed
of, under PRETENCE of debt, and the more flagrant PRETENCE of EXECUTION,
together with the dispossessing me of my habitation, will neither serve
to prevent the subscribing myself of Gray’s-Inn, or continuing there, if
a GRAIN of JUSTICE or EQUITY is to be found in a TON of LAW.

                                  I am,

                                         With some degree of faithfulness,
                                             The public’s devoted servant,
                                                            ROB. HOLLOWAY.



ADVERTISEMENT.


THE originals from whence these copies are most exactly drawn, being
WHOLE LENGTH pieces, in a Letter to the CITIZENS of LONDON, the
publication has been SUPPRESSED on account of their MONSTROUS MIEN.
Notwithstanding the _Dignity_ and _Gracefulness_ of their personages, I
shall make bold to exhibit them to that part of the public who have
curiosity enough to know the NAMES, FIGURE, and CHARACTER of the most
ILLUSTRIOUS SCOUNDRELS this century has produced.

*** The publisher of this Letter will give a direction to the author

                                                            ROB. HOLLOWAY.



TO
JOHN WILKES, Esq;


SIR,

THERE is an innate satisfaction in human nature that will ever manifest
itself when occasion presents the tribute of praise to our actions, and a
generous mind feels an equal degree of pleasure in paying that tribute in
the coin of truth; but the ambiguity of your actions renders their
construction so doubtful, there is much hazard in giving or denying them
approbation.  Whilst the boisterous malevolence of your enemies load you
with vices foreign to your heart, the fanatic adulation of your zealots
as fervently extol you for virtues WE know not of.  Opinions
diametrically opposite in general are but hyperboles created and
cherished by the violence of party, and at best leave an hypothesis too
intricate to draw any conclusion of real principles or motives from.  It
is therefore not altogether unpardonable if a writer should err in the
portrait of a character so equivocal.  In two things however the people
of all degrees, interest, and principles seem to concur; namely, that the
advantage derived from your conduct has heretofore been merely
accidental, and that if your integrity could keep pace with your
abilities, this nation might justly boast an ornament unknown to others;
whether either or both these conjectures bear the testimony of truth your
own heart can best determine; nevertheless it is indisputably evident
that we have not witnessed one premeditated or intentional benefit,
independent of your own personal and private interest, flowing from a
course of eight years patriotism; how far your endeavours may have fell
short of your assiduity and inclination in the pursuit of any public
good, I will not contest.  The multitude have long been taught to
consider you as an oracle pregnant with miracles eventually as their
different imaginations represented them; as yet those sanguine
expectations are totally unanswered: it is therefore absolutely necessary
to do something either to SERVE or DECEIVE, no matter which.  Credulity
is the characteristic of Englishmen, who as greedily swallow the
deception as the service.  They have entertained a most sovereign respect
for the hacknied and prostituted word LIBERTY, without a comprehension of
any property or meaning peculiar to that admirable substantive more than
the bare found; to evince this truth we need only look back and view the
innumerable stabs given to the vitals of Liberty in those very moments
they meant to celebrate her triumph over Tyranny.  The seizure of your
person and papers with a general warrant furnished us with one instance
of ministerial oppression, or rather ministerial ignorance; to remedy
which we have seen the misguided advocates of Liberty committing every
species of violence without any warrant at all, spurning the authority of
magistrates, and attempting a total subversion of that order and
government so absolutely necessary to GENUINE LIBERTY, the certain
effects of a bigoted enthusiasm.  Liberty in itself is the balm of life
to an Englishman; but, like physic prescribed for our health, if treated
with judgment, preserves the frame; if not, turns to poison and destroys
it.—Our excellent constitution has rendered this inestimable jewel the
birth-right and inheritance of the meanest subject, not in proportion to
our other enjoyments, but in such equal lots, that the peasant shares
with the prince.  The thing itself is the same in king or subject, the
difference only subsists in the mode of obtaining and using it.  A due
reverence to the laws of the land on which Liberty is founded, and a
proper respect to the ministers acting judicially under lawful authority,
is the most eligible method of preserving our privileges, whilst an
impartial distribution and faithful interpretation of those laws will
most assuredly prove a sufficient bulwark against all infringements or
attacks of tyranny.  Nor need we have any _apprehensions_ for contrary
events, but from a spirit of sedition amongst ourselves.  When anarchy
supersedes order and subordination, when the laws become trampled on and
violated, when right and wrong have lost their distinction, and justice
and injustice are melted down into the same mass, Liberty will perish in
the confused chaos, and we shall inevitably become slaves unpitied,
inasmuch that we have voluntarily sapped the foundation of freedom, and
forged the chains of our own bondage.

Thus much, Sir, I held absolutely necessary by way of introduction, and
for two special reasons; first, to manifest my independence of party
zeal; and secondly, to shew my esteem for the laws before I venture to
censure the execution of them.

I shall now proceed, with a candid mediocrity between the extremes of
violent prejudice and blind partiality, to point out a grievance of a
most oppressive nature, which the common people have long groaned under
and complained of to no purpose.  As this is a species of oppression
falling immediately under your own absolute power in some measure (as
sheriff) to redress (independent of ministerial mandates or influence) we
shall therefore look upon your endeavours to remove the injuries and
establish a remedy as the touch-stone or standard of your affection and
gratitude to a people who have deserved both on many occasions.  It is
evident you was apprized of the infinite abuses committed by sheriffs
officers previous to your election, and that these abuses called loudly
for redress; therefore you very judiciously made a public declaration,
“that the rectifying such intolerable cruelties should be considered as
the condition of your election.”  Having thus pledged your veracity for
the due performance of so necessary and interesting a contract, we wait
with some impatience the redemption of this solemn pawn.  The hour is now
approaching which will provide you fair opportunity of riveting the
affection of your friends and contemning the malice of your enemies.

In an undertaking so truly laudable and beneficial to the lives,
liberties, and property of your fellow citizens and subjects, you cannot
doubt the assistance of every friend to justice.  Experience has
furnished me with a plentiful stock of such materials most necessary to
lay the foundation and ground-work of your intended plan, and I shall
most cheerfully transfer them when called on.  Though notwithstanding
such assistance, joined to your own unparalleled intrepidity, sagacity,
and acquaintance with the laws, I fear the talk of reformation will prove
too arduous for your single efforts.  That you may form a more perfect
idea of the difficulties you have to encounter, I shall set before your
view the rise, progress, abilities, strength, and preposterous magnitude
of a modern sheriff’s officer.  This excrement of the law is in general
the outcast of bagnios and more infamous brothels, or the vomit of every
gaol within the bills of mortality; if he can boast a seven years tour to
America, it is an acquisition to his pretentions.  Let this be as it may,
certain it is, that they most carefully unload themselves of every tender
sensation and feeling incident to human nature to render their conscience
light enough for a thorough bailiff.  Bawdy-house keepers, or other
persons of equal reputation, find it their interest to stand security to
the sheriffs, the clerks in whole office, after receiving the necessary
perquisite and treat, admit him to the vocation of his profession; being
thus constituted a minister of justice _durante bene placito_, and having
been regularly initiated in the principles of thieving from his cradle,
he begins the plundering trade, as if licensed pursuant to act of
parliament, under the cherishing wings of the law, provided with the
annexed indispensible implements of his profession; viz. ten of his
primitive companions, by way of a _corps de reserve_, when on the forlorn
hope, {7} a thorough-paced pettyfogging attorney, an infamous broker,
whose conscience exceeds not the price of a rush chair, and _a very
reputable_, _worthy_, monied-man, whose successful VILLANIES have enabled
him to advance a sum on every occasion that offers a VICTIM to his
_Friendship_.  The diabolical band of this demi-pluto being thus
arraigned, and his houshold established under the inspection of a female
with principles of the same dimension, the inquisition opens, and the
tortures begin on the first unhappy object that falls in their clutches,
who is no sooner brought home (as the phrase is) but surrounded by this
flock of harpies.  The attorney attends in capacity of midwife to his
misfortunes, and most carefully delivers him of all his secrets, such as,
how much property he is possessed of, how much he owes, and many other
particulars very material to him; the bottle is pushed briskly about, and
the prisoner is made to believe he is amongst his best friends.  The
first and principal point is gained when they have prevailed on him not
to pay or settle the debt.  If he wants money a _worthy honest_ man
attends, who will lend it him, doing these things frequently to men in
his situation.  Five different messages are sent to his acquaintances to
bail him; the messenger _mistakes_ the way, and goes to his other
creditors for more writs; the prisoner is charged a shilling or half a
crown for each of those _services_.  Unluckily his friends were out—but
what of that!  Mr. — and Mr. — shall bail him to-morrow, and the
scoundrel of a plaintiff will never have six pence (the only word of
truth he hears).  To-morrow comes, the office is to be searched—unlucky
again! it is a holiday, or not office-hours, &c. &c.  Now a bill is
brought in of five or six pounds, for which his new acquaintance have eat
and drank well; his pockets stripped paves the way to stripping his
house—another writ or two is come against him by these delays.  The
unhappy man is now fairly in the trammels—what must be done!  Why, any
thing to obtain liberty.  The bailiff’s good friends bail him, at the
_modest_ expence of half the debts—and from that moment he dates his
inevitable ruin.  He is soon after called on to bail some rascal of their
own upon a sham action, who is never to be found afterwards; therefore he
must pay the debt and cost, which is snacked in the FAMILY.  If it is
inconvenient, out of pure _friendship_ and _humanity_, a little time is
given upon a bond and judgment, which is no sooner signed, &c. but
execution is taken out and levied.  The _honest_ broker appraises the
effects to one third the value, the monied _friend_ purchases them under
the sheriff’s bill of sale, the deluded wretch is robbed, beggared, and
branded for a villain by his fair creditors, whilst the attorney,
bailiff, broker, and purchaser divide the booty, and the unhappy debtor
is sent to the King’s Bench or Fleet, as an additional proof of THEIR
industry.  But as the same medicine agrees not with all constitutions, so
the same doctrine suits not all principles, we will for a moment turn our
attention to a fresh disease, and mark the operation of a fresh remedy.
The patient now is a man of large dealings, whose credit is not quite
exhausted, encumbered with a good-looking promising booty; he is
therefore, in consideration of ten _per cent._ indulged with a length of
tether, and bargains for a lease of liberty from term to term
conditionally, that he neglects his business, and calls every day to
treat his keeper with a bottle of Madeira, and some other _trifling_
present of five guineas value for the she Saracen who supplies the place
of hostess to this infernal inquisition.  However pernicious men may
esteem those kind of _services_ when at a distance from the necessity of
accepting them, there are few to be found possessed of sufficient
resolution to reject liberty on any terms.  If mankind in general were,
Sir, blessed with your fortitude, they would eagerly concur in this
maxim, that the worst of all danger is the dread on’t.  Misfortunes
gather strength by travelling, and come home loaded with affliction in
proportion to the time they take to reach us; therefore when we view
them, though aloof, it is our interest to meet, before their burthen
becomes too weighty; but the present tense is the most predominant of
human passions, and we are too apt to think, whilst danger is out of
sight, it is easily conquered; hence it is that the unhappy objects in
question entail on themselves a life of misery, by studiously waving the
difficulties of a day.  If men in trade, the very instant they are
arrested, would throw their property into the hands of creditors, they
would certainly escape the consequences attending a different step, which
at best is only delaying misery, without a hope of avoiding it:

    _Like one who_, _willing to defer a while_
    _A sudden ruin_, _props the tottering pile_,
    _Till in short space the house_, _the props_, _and all_
    _Together in a dreadful ruin fall_.

But to return; more actions come against the prisoner on parole, and it
is necessary to have bail, not as a security to the plaintiffs, but to
augment the bailiff’s emolument.  It is a lucky hit if he has no friends
ready; for then the banditti come into pay, and the HARVEST begins, which
ends not while a moveable is found on his premises; houshold furniture
indeed is not the great crop aimed at, the unfortunate man is yet in good
credit, and it would be the height of ingratitude to refuse a compliance
with his own destruction, to serve such worthy _friends_ as his bail;
therefore he must accept a bill of 50 or 100l. for this rascal, another
of the like sum for his colleague in iniquity, otherwise he is in danger
of being rendered to prison.  The bills thus obtained are negotiated, and
the consideration sent to the den where they were given, and there
divided by the thieves who inhabit it.  The bills become due—the acceptor
no abilities to pay—writs are taken out—more bail is procured of the same
complexion—more notes must be given for the same laudable purposes—more
credulous tradesmen are easily found to take them, and the product
divided as before—and so on _ad infinitum_, till his credit is on a level
with their principles.  A statute of bankruptcy at last drops the
curtain, and thus ends the farce before the tragedy is begun.
Pettyfogging attornies, bailiffs, brokers, and thieves of every
denomination have devoured his substance, the creditors are in luck if
enough is left to pay the expence a commission.  The bankrupt is sent to
gaol to linger out the remainder of a wretched life, as a reward for that
folly and imprudence, which his creditors construe fraud and villany.

It may be thought, Sir, that the fertility of my invention supplies the
chasm of bailiffs knavery, and that to indulge an unjustifiable spleen, I
have given my veracity a stretch; indeed there is no occasion for
fiction, I have a most plentiful stock of substantial, well-attested
infamy to cull materials from, and can produce many men who have gone
through this ceremony step by step, with this variation only, that the
scope of villany has been more extensive, and the catastrophe protracted
to a longer date.  Things are strongly misrepresented if a certain
bailiff of Middlesex did not extort bills to the amount of 3000l. from
one man in the afore-mentioned situation.  But if these transactions,
infamous as they are, were the ultimate of their villany, I should hold
them so barren of vice as not to merit censure.  Acts of a more alarming
and cruel nature are daily practised by these BUCCANEERS and HUSSARS of
law; I shall therefore overlook these as supernumerary artifices,
bagatelles, and common garnish to their standing household dish of
villanies, and proceed to a view of their integrity in the execution of a
legal process levied on the effects of a defendant.

The first step in this business is putting from two to any _requisite_
number of their own _worthies_ in possession, not to preserve the
property, but to swear that no such property existed, if necessary.  The
goods are generally taken off the premises without the _tedious_ form of
appraisement, inventory, or bill of sale from the sheriff; nor is the
difference between the sum levied and the amount of the property any
obstruction, these are niceties to be determined by law.  Taking ALL the
property they find is, in the Bailiff Dictionary, securing the ammunition
to prevent A FIRING; the English of which is, robbing a man of ALL will
prevent his having any thing left to procure redress.  The burglary thus
completed, the plunder is appraised by the FAMILY broker, and as formally
sold to another _honest_ chapman in the FAMILY way.  If the injured party
should fortunately raise a friend to inquire into the nature of this
atrocious robbery, what avails it! the matter comes before the
court—affidavits innumerable _prove_ the legality of the whole
transaction, and the oppressor triumphs in victorious villany.  Yet a man
of common understanding will answer, how is it possible these
depredations can be committed with impunity, in the face of such
excellent laws?  I reply, that the excellency of those laws, and their
favourable interpretation by our judges, &c. renders it almost
impracticable to come at offenders of this class.  Whilst affidavits can
be procured at the stinted price of half a crown, to weigh in testimony
against such as are the language of truth, dictated by conscience only,
we have little hopes of redress for injuries of this stamp, as the
complaint must be made by motion on affidavit, and the reply is made in
the same mode, with five affidavits to one, which lawyers term weight of
metal; therefore we may justly say, the laws designed for our protection
are in the hands of infamous professors, the most grievous evil the
subject knows; the laws of this kingdom, though the most admirable code
in the known world, are but so many implements of oppression to
individuals destitute of abilities to purchase a proper share of them; a
convincing proof that Liberty, unaccompanied with property, is a MERE
FARCE.  I will venture to affirm, that if half these outrages had been
committed in an absolute monarchy, nothing less than the offender’s life
would atone for the offence; from what false notions then do we bear with
oppressions unknown and unheard of even amongst the Algerines, and other
countries distinguished by the badge of slavery?  I will maintain that,
to poor individuals, such slavery is virtually LIBERTY in every
ADVANTAGEOUS acceptation of the word, in a more beneficial sense than the
subjects of this country experience.  Do not these laws murder the wretch
languishing under the intenseness of hunger, and every other motive that
the wants of human nature can urge, who steals a shilling, at the same
time that they screen a dignified villain, living luxuriously on the
spoils of a whole nation, who, by purchasing a little well-chewed
eloquence at the bar, gets his robberies graced with the epithets of
error and mistake?  But, of all the diabolical practices in the creed of
a bailiff and pettifogger, the breaking open our houses, under PRETENCE
of an execution, is surely the most shocking, though not the least
frequent.  This species of burglary is perpetrated in the following
manner: one of their co-operators is set up a creditor, no matter for
what sum; that circumstance is guided by the amount of the property
discovered on the premises.  A writ is immediately sued out, and another
pettifogger accepts the service in the supposed defendant’s name, whom he
never saw or heard of.  In this manner the proceedings go on; a
declaration is delivered and received in the like manner, and, to give a
better colour to the transaction, a special plea is put in: in this
seemingly regular mode, execution is taken out and levied on the effects
of the unfortunate object, who is thunder-struck at the event, as well he
may; but expostulating or complaining is fruitless.

The property is either sold on the premises, or taken away for the same
purpose.

The officer takes shelter under his warrant.

The attorney under his client’s instructions to sue.

The affair is so managed as to levy the last day of a term, that no court
may be open to a complaint; and before the next term AFFIDAVIT’S
sufficient _prove_ not only the legality of the debt and proceedings, but
that no such transaction ever happened, if that should be found most
_convenient_.  I have been witness to the oppression and cruelties
exercised in conquered countries, the misery and wretchedness of the
inhabitants living under military and despotic governments, and to the
numerous train of evils accompanying the seat of war; but never, no
never, met with horrors so dreadful to look on, as are daily perpetrated
with impunity in this country of boasted liberty:

    _As well we might the host of armies bear_,
    _As feel the_ EFFECTS, DISTRESS, _and_ FORCE _of war_.

Why do we tell Spain, Portugal, and Italy, that we have neither bravos,
assassins, or inquisitions, when we are cursed with pettyfogging
attornies, bailiffs, and knights of the post, a more numerous and
dangerous left of banditti, who commit every species of barbarity and
cruelty, under the specious pretext of doing their duty?  To what purpose
do we daily waste our lungs, and crack the drum of our ears, bauling at
the illegality of GENERAL WARRANTS, which happens once in a century?

I defy the annals of the secretary of state’s office to produce a General
Warrant, or even the records of the Star Chamber, an order fraught with
equal oppression.

If I remember right, the warrant which seized your person and papers left
you quiet possession of every thing else; and even those papers were
returned, with the additional recompence of FOUR THOUSAND POUNDS:
notwithstanding we look on you as a martyr to ministerial vengeance and
oppression.  If so, by what standard of oppression will you measure the
wrongs here complained of?  You cannot insult our understanding so far as
to tell us, oppression from one minister of state is weightier than from
fifty ministers of HELL, who not only seize our property, deemed such by
law, but the absolute exceptions in law, papers, books, and
wearing-apparel.

If, Sir, you are not a perfect MOCKERY of that patriotism you so
industriously persuade us is the spring of ALL your actions, if you have
a grain of genuine liberty in your composition, if you are not steeled
against the feelings of humanity, lost to every sense of gratitude, and
deaf to the cries of the injured, you will search and probe the very
inmost recesses of these infamous transactions; and, if possible, totally
eradicate the cause.  But I fear the root has taken too fast a hold to be
removed by your utmost efforts; indeed you may lop the branches, and
prune the sprouts, but nothing less than a parliamentary aid can destroy
the trunk; or at least, to make any tolerable figure or progress in the
business, the chief justice must exert his abilities and power, or all
yours will prove little less than abortive and fruitless.  But as it is
not a sufficient excuse for neglecting a part, because we cannot
accomplish the whole, I shall point out to you a few inconveniencies,
which may in some degree be remedied or prevented in future.

You are to take care that eligible bail is not, on any PRETENCE,
rejected; for the laws have put it out of the sheriffs power to refuse
such bail as APPEAR responsible for the debt at the TIME it is offered,
nor does the law call on the sheriff, should such bail subsequently
become insolvent; notwithstanding the contrary doctrine of bailiffs and
pettyfogging attornies.

You are to take care, that for a bail-bond to a bill of Middlesex, that
one guinea _per_ hundred is not extorted, which is the common practice.

You should totally abolish the imposition of making a prisoner pay half a
crown, but oftener five shillings, for searching the office of Middlesex;
which is a tax founded on no better authority than the mutual cheat of
bailiff and clerk in office.

You should take care, that no blank warrants go out of the office till
the receipt of the king’s writ.

You should take care, that such writs are sealed before you grant a
warrant on them.

You should take care, that such writs are not altered after sealing.

You should take care, when more persons than one are included in a writ,
that no more than one is put in a warrant.

You should constitute a sworn appraiser of reputation, and take security
for his integrity in the appraisement of all such goods as are seized by
virtue of execution.

You should prevent clerks in office accepting presents from bailiffs, as
such presents cannot be for the public good.

You should take care, that plaintiff and defendant are not BOTH charged
with the expence of arrest, and that too by treble fees.

You should appoint proper persons in Middlesex to take bail-bonds, the
same as in London; but under better regulations.

You should appoint a proper person to superintend lock-up-houses twice a
week, and make returns of such prisoners as remain for want of bail, and
the names of such bail as HAVE been by them OFFERED to the bailiff.

You should regulate the expence of lock-up-houses, and have those
regulations hung up for the INSPECTION of prisoners.

YOU SHOULD PREVENT ANY OFFICER KEEPING A LOCK-UP-HOUSE, OR HAVING ANY
INTEREST THEREIN.

To enumerate ALL the frauds and artifices practised by these _gentlemen_
would swell this Letter to a voluminous size.  Suffice it therefore, that
I have pointed out more malpractices than you will easily rectify, or
could have comprehended from COMMON report, notwithstanding you conceived
them to be both numerous and flagrant.

Having thus far shewn what is practised in open defiance of all laws
human and divine, it will not be improper to remark how far these
outrages are carefully prohibited by the strict letter of the laws now in
force.

No arrest is lawful, unless the bailiff absolutely lay his hand on the
defendant; for the writs express arrest by the words CAPIAS, ATTACHIAS,
that is, to take and catch-hold; therefore, breaking open doors to make
an arrest is no more lawful than breaking them to commit a burglary; for
every act of violence is unlawful till the arrest be made and complete.

No arrest in civil cases is to be made with violence, by breaking open
doors, unless when regular possession shall be recovered of any house,
and the defendant happens to be in SUCH HOUSE.  Therefore bailiffs enter
at their peril, and the defendant is justifiable in putting him to death
in the very instant he ATTEMPTS to raise a latch; for it would be absurd
to suppose the laws will protect a man in the commission of an unlawful
act.

Any bailiff MALICIOUSLY arresting any person, where no cause of action
is, shall suffer six months imprisonment, and shall pay treble damages,
with a forfeiture of 10l. before he is discharged.

No bailiff shall take more fees than what the law allows upon pain of
incurring a penalty of 40l. with treble damages, to the party aggrieved.

Attachment lies against him for executing a writ OPPRESSIVELY by FORCE,
EXTORTION, or in any CORRUPT manner.

But our laws have originally considered sheriffs only ostensible for the
due execution of writs, and therefore take little notice of their
deputies, but make him answerable for THEIR acts in a ministerial
capacity; and equitably so, for the law supposes him capable of avoiding
evils of this nature by chusing proper persons.

We will now consider what provision the laws have made against Barratry
and other iniquitous practices of pettyfogging attornies, from whom all
the other grievances, either positively or negatively, spring.  My lord
Coke thus defines a Barrator; _that he is a common mover and maintainer
of suits in disturbance of the peace_, _and in taking and detaining the
possession of houses_, _lands_, _and goods by false inventions_, _and
therefore the indictment against him_ OUGHT _to be in these words_; viz.
that he is, COMMUNIOUS MALEFACTOR, CALUMNIATOR, & SEMINATOR LITIUM, &
DISCORDIARUM INTER VICINOS SUOS & PACES REGIS PERTURBATOR, &c. &c. which
is saying, that a barrator or pettyfogger is the most dangerous oppressor
in the law; for he oppresseth the innocent under colour of that law which
was made to protect them from oppression; and yet we have 500 of these
barrators or pettyfoggers in the courts at Westminster every term, in the
full exercise of their depredations, notwithstanding the laws expressly
pronounce the following sentence against them; viz. “that they shall be
rendered incapable of acting as attornies.”

    “Attornies must produce receipts from under the hands of council, or
    other persons receiving fees, if requested by their clients, or they
    shall not be allowed them; and attornies must give in to their
    clients a true bill, under their own hand-writing, of all such fees,
    &c. one month before any action shall be brought against their
    clients for the same.

    “No attorney shall delay his client’s suit from any advantage to
    himself, or demand more than his due fees and disbursements, under
    pain of a fine and disability to act.

    “If any attorney shall suffer any other person to prosecute any suit
    in his name, he shall forfeit 20l.

    “If any attorney’s bill, upon taxation, be reduced a SIXTH part, he
    shall pay a penalty of 50l. and be disabled from acting as an
    attorney.

    “If any who have been convicted of perjury, forgery, &c. shall
    practise as an attorney or solicitor in any suit or action, the
    judge, where such action shall be brought, hath power to transport
    the offender for seven years, under such pains and penalties as other
    felons.

    “If any attorney shall procure a blank warrant from any sheriff, with
    intent to arrest, before a writ is delivered, he shall be expelled
    and punished.

    “Every attorney must enter and file a warrant of attorney in the suit
    he is employed to prosecute, under the penalty of 10l.

    “The plaintiff’s attorney must file his in the term he declares, and
    the defendants his in the term he appears.

    “And no attorney shall appear or plead a plea, without a warrant from
    his client.”

Notwithstanding our laws abound with these and many more excellent
provisions in behalf of the subjects at large, by prescribing limits to
the power, and inforcing the duty, of attornies, we daily feel their
inefficiency to protect our liberty and property, a proof that human
foresight is unequal to the task of guarding against the invention and
chicanery of necessitous villany.

However, as the evils arise not so much from the DEFECT of our laws as
from a BREACH of them, there is a firm bottom to proceed on, and from
your insatiable hatred to oppression, we may hope to see some wholesome
regulations in the sheriffs department.  The judicious choice of Mr.
Reynolds, as under-sheriff, will greatly facilitate a remedy to these
growing complaints; from whom, as a man and friend to the community, we
have every thing to hope—as an able lawyer, nothing to doubt.

Lock-up-houses, EMPHATICALLY called spunging-houses, were originally
instituted for the mutual benefit and advantage of debtor and creditor,
as a kind of interlocutory residence or respite from a prison, which gave
to the former a lotted time to procure sureties for his appearance, raise
money or friends to pay the debt, or otherwise settle the matter; with
like opportunity to the latter to consider of and consult his own
interest.  Thus far it became a humane and equitable institution; but, O
TEMPORA! O MORES! how subverted are the lock-up-houses of this day: the
instant a debtor enters one of these confines, a temporary hell presents
itself.  He is hemmed in and surrounded by a set of wretches, whose daily
bread depends on the misfortunes of others; on the one side he hears
pettyfoggers reading lectures on the THEORY of vice, on the other,
bailiffs urging the necessity of its PRACTICE; before him are raigned the
unhappy pupils, industriously improving on their infernal precepts, and
rendering fraud, perjury, rapine, and every degree of robbery, as
mechanical as shoe-making; behind stands a female _Anodyne_, bloated with
all the infections purged from her sex, her heart ulcerated with vice,
and her face with brandy, railing at the cruelty of creditors, and
_piously_ banding off _comfort_ to his misfortunes, by holding out
_advice_ pernicious as Eve’s apple, a taste of which would entail misery
on his whole posterity.

A spunging-house, in its present state, is as destructive to the
principles of a man, as a brothel to the chastity of a woman; both enter
with an equal degree of timidity and terror, and are seduced by similar
stages of viciousness.  The former, who held it a dishonour to delay
payment of his bill with punctuality, will, after a month’s residence in
a spunging-house, from hellish tenets and execrable examples, think it
meritorious to cheat every creditor he has.  The latter, who held the
least obscenity offensive to her ear, will, from a like mode of
seduction, and abominable examples, not only endure the sound, but court
the substance.  Most certain it is, that the seeds of vice are alike
plentifully sown in these diabolical seminaries, and the hand of
authority only can prevent its increase.  But it appears, that these
abuses committed by sheriffs officers are not wholly recent or local; for
so long since as the year 1413 we find an act, in the first year of Henry
the Fifth, to prevent abuses, extortions, and oppressions of bailiffs;
which act runs thus: “Forasmuch as the king’s liege people dare not
prosecute or complain of the extortions or oppressions to them done by
the _bailiffs_ of sheriffs, because that the said bailiffs of sheriffs be
so continually year after year abiding with the sheriffs, interchangeably
in one office or in another, our lord the king, by the advice and assent
of the lords spiritual and temporal, and at the _special_ instance and
_special_ request of the commons of this realm, hath ordained and
established, THAT THEY WHO BE BAILIFFS OR SHERIFFS BY ONE YEAR SHALL BE
IN NO SUCH OFFICE BY THREE YEARS NEXT FOLLOWING.”

But by this and a subsequent act the bailiffs of such sheriffs, whose
sheriffwicks are _inheritable_, are excepted.  Now the lord mayor and
citizens of London have the sheriffalty of London and Middlesex in fee by
charter; therefore the bailiffs come within the above exception.  The
acts themselves are affirmative, and the exception consequently leaves a
negative pregnant, which gives the sheriff full power to discharge such
bailiffs under sheriffwicks _inheritable_, as if the acts had made no
exceptions.

A removal then of the officers, or at least the greatest part of them, is
the first step towards a reformation; and the more effectually to
eradicate the evil, as far as your power will extend, let them be
replaced with men of moderate honesty and morality.  Chuse them as you do
other officers of less consequence, by ballot, election, &c. such a mode
of choice will soon procure proper persons, and put the officers on a
reputable footing.  There is nothing dishonourable in the profession
itself, more than in constable or any other minister of justice; the name
of bailiff is become contemptible ONLY from a notion, that none are such
but those totally destitute of every spark of humanity and honesty.
Sheriffs themselves are royal officers of great dignity, taking place
even of noblemen in the county during their sheriffalty.  Can it then be
supposed, that the immediate deputies of an officer, whom the law honours
with a judicial and ministerial jurisdiction, almost to unlimited power,
should be composed of men too infamous for any other employment, such
{31} only as are excluded from all social and friendly societies of men?
However it would be extremely unjust, and argue a want of candour and
common charity, to indiscriminately confound the good with the bad, or
make the whole answerable for the crimes of a part.

Amidst such a body of men, it is to be hoped that exceptions are not
wanting; but I will venture to say, that those exceptions will chiefly be
found in the serjeants at mace, some of whom have been reputable
tradesmen, and still retain a memory of their own misfortunes, which
serves to keep the faculties of feeling and humanity in a proper
circulation, and makes them view the precipice from which they fell
through the miseries of others.

But as it does not become my purpose or province to select the guilty
from the innocent, I will leave them to stand justified by their own
works, as they pass your more critical observation; all I contend for at
present, is THE VERACITY OF THIS SHORT NARRATIVE, IN WHICH I HAVE NOT
RELATED OR ALLUDED TO A SINGLE TRANSACTION BUT I CAN AUTHENTICATE WITH
AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES.  LET THEN THE PROOF OF PAST INJURIES BE MY
TASK, A PREVENTION OF THE FUTURE YOURS.  From the foregoing observations
we may fairly conclude, that the present mode of holding the person of
house-keepers in trade to bail, is no more beneficial to creditors than
reputable to debtors, even supposing such arrest to be thoroughly
consonant with the law of the land.

But to quit the legality, and turn to the equity and policy of confining
the body of a debtor.  There can be no reason given agreeable to humanity
or christianity, why one party only should be punished for a crime, if
two concur in the guilt.  The creditor that gives improper credit, with a
view of exorbitant gain, meets the debtor half way in the fraud by the
very act of trust.  In the former it is premeditated fraud and avarice,
in the latter rashness and folly.  It is for his own sake that the
creditor gives credit, and his hope of advantage begets a confidence in
the creditor.  As the contract or cause is mutual, so ought the
consequence.

We have seen one generation after another imprisoned for debts they could
not pay; and experience daily teaches, that a prison, so far from
affording a creditor’s demand, shuts up, with the debtor, every hope of
recovering it.  Why then should we pursue the remedy without a benefit?
If the debtor has property, take it, and the end of arrest is fully
answered.  If no such property is to be found, the want of it can be no
consolation to the debtor; and it is inhuman to add affliction on the
back of misfortunes.

If we search the prisons through, it will appear, that a vast majority of
prisoners are such from the villanies of attornies, the injustice of
creditors, or from a disability to pay such debts as ought not, from the
nature of their contract, to be paid.  The just, fair, and honest man
seldom imprisons his debtor for a want of abilities so much as for want
of inclination.  In the latter case, imprisonment is too slender a
punishment for the offence, in the former too harsh and severe.

I am not so liberty-bit as to contend for it in behalf of a man, who has
wasted his creditors substance by every act of dissipation and
profligacy; but there certainly ought to be a line drawn between the
fraudulent and honest debtor: the one merits a more exemplary correction
than the laws inflict, the other claims not only the law’s protection,
but the aid of humanity.

The misery attending debtors would be often avoided, if creditors would
DEIGN to see and treat with them, instead of sending an attorney, whose
hearts in general are not made of penetrable stuff; to hope for mercy
from them, is putting your finger in the fire and begging it not to burn.

Attornies fees amount to ten or fifteen pounds by suing a debtor to
execution, and by making terms to avoid it as many shillings only; it is
therefore absurd to suppose an attorney would advise an amicable
adjustment.

As I have in the course of these confused and indigested observations
pointed out the several abuses of attornies and bailiffs, with their
several remedies, I shall endeavour to shew the reason why these remedies
remain unapplied, and why such atrocious offences escape the vigilance,
energy, and force of so many statutes framed for their detection, and
upon a strict enquiry we shall find the evil under two general heads.

These outrages are mostly practised on such objects as are in a
defenceless situation, and constrained to silence from their inabilities
to complain.  If, _per contra_, the oppressed person saves enough out of
the wreck to make application, it is made under these disadvantageous
circumstances.  An attorney of integrity and reputation as studiously
shuns a contest with miscreants, so loaded with infamy, as they would an
epidemical contagion; on the other hand, an attorney of the same stamp
renders the remedy infinitely worse than the disease.  The relief
obtained from such an advocate serves but to involve and plunge the
complainant in a more horrid gulph of distress, by picking his pocket of
every shilling he can procure, and afterwards selling his cause to the
infamous defendant.  This is a truth fatally felt by one half of the
world, and acknowledged by the other.

Surely then the interest and honor of the profession is deeply engaged in
the extirpation of these disgraceful nuisances to THEIR community; a
small degree of THEIR exertion would brush these asps from the face of
the earth, which now buzz and sting, to the annoyance of every less
offensive member of society.

To say that this great end is not easy to accomplish, is folly and
cowardice in the extreme.  A proper knowledge in the laws, joined to a
little spirit and resolution, would absolutely bring the whole artillery
of pettyfoggers to capitulate at least, and we should see them reduced to
the alternative of living by the fair practice, or seeking some other
profession.

Is it not enough to put the whole body of law out of countenance, when I
positively aver to their teeth, that, with the assistance of the laws now
in force, and an able attorney of spirit and character, I would undertake
to render these horrid transactions impracticable, with impunity, for the
future.

But what can we expect, when our most eminent pleaders will view a
monstrous gigantic villany stalking on the verge of his brief, and will
not step out of his _methodical_ path to catch it?  Have we not heard an
orator exclaim, _Your lordships are well acquainted with the abilities of
this man_, _this quire of affidavits are of his manufactory_, _the credit
of which_, _my lords_, _will render an explanation of the matter
unnecessary_?

Notwithstanding the known and established character of the solicitor in
question, the very next cause we see the same eloquent gentleman take up
the trowel and plaister of logic, and completely cover the egregious
blacking he bestowed on him half an hour before.

It is not all the rhetorical eloquence, muttered from the force of
language, that can reconcile this absurdity to common sense.  The man who
was all infamy half an hour ago cannot make so quick a transition; but on
such paradoxes in law does the safety and support of these Jeofails
depend.

Much having been said about the peculiar qualifications and abilities of
a pettyfogging attorney, I shall conclude this Letter with a portrait of
the most eminent one in this metropolis.

He keeps his COMMONS with bailiffs, knights of the pad and the post, and
other _illustrious_ personages of equal _dignity_.  He has most carefully
gleaned up all the little quirks and artifices in the law, which being
too few for his purpose, he has augmented the number with some of his own
invention.  The fair practice he ever held an uncertain revenue, and
honesty a bar to wealth.  A weak conscience has disincumbered him of
integrity, and a dislike to poverty freed him from every grain of
morality.  Right and wrong claim no distinction, but as they severally
serve his interest.  Justice and injustice bear the same _convenient_
equality.  It would be matter of wonder should a man, so happily equipped
for advancement, miss success.  We now find him armed, _cap-à-pe_, with
writs of error, reverse of judgments, sham pleas and demurrers, and
Nature’s great design fully answered in his creation.  She bestowed
knavery with a lavish hand; the addition of solicitor and scrivenor has
stamped him pettyfogger in every limb.  His penetration is superior to
most mens; the first fee enables him to pronounce the cause _just_, the
second amounts to _inspiration_, and a third shall decree his client the
kingdom of MEXICO, if he wants it.  Find but money, and he will find
title.  Let him finger a purse, and he will out-run the lawyer in the
fable, who ate the oyster and left his client the shell; our pettyfogger
will swallow the one and pocket the other.  He is the HYÆNA {39} of the
law, at whose hideous howl the other curs are dumb.  His appetite for
villany is most voracious, and in time we may hope to see him, like
AARON’S serpent, devouring every poisonous reptile of his own species.
His conscience never takes a general view of his actions, but
occasionally peeps when he handles the New Testament.  In that moment his
whole frame shakes from its center, and his soul seems agitated, as if
pregnant with the murder of the twelve apostles.  He is a remarkable
instance of God’s love for the creation; to warn mankind against the
wiles of his tongue, Infinite Goodness has set a token of deception in
his countenance.  In his face we have a perfect index to his heart, each
feature is a hieroglyphic expressive of horrid crimes beyond the reach of
language.  Perjury has so infected his breath, that he omits grace at his
meals to avoid tainting the meat.  He is a JUDAS in every thing but
remorse; his insatiable avarice secures him from repentance, and he
esteems not gold the less as being the price of BLOOD.  He seems to have
the gift of divinity, so far as to prophesy his own end; and therefore
keeps a monitor {40} in the house to remind him HANGING is not repealed.
Quirks, subterfuges, and evasions having kindly lugged him through his
filthy life, as a mark of his gratitude he will remember them in his
death; so that when the last trumpet sounds to judgment, like QUEVEDO’S
lawyer, he will DEMUR, under pretence that the proceedings were wrong
from his creation, he having a soul not made for a human body.

                                * * * * *

                                  FINIS.



FOOTNOTES.


{7}  Wretches that swear to affidavits upon all occasions, without
knowing the contents, or the person they are exhibited against.

{31}  Sheriffs officers, MERELY from their being SUCH, are excepted in
the formation of all neighbourly communities.

{39}  Aristotle and Elian relate, that a dog loses the faculty of barking
when he opens; that he imitates the speech of a human being for the
purpose of gaining admittance into their houses to devour them.

{40}  The lady who occasionally officiates as wife, bawd, priestess, or
any thing most convenient, often serenades him with a rehearsal of his
elegy, insisting on’t he must be hanged.





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